How the Story Came Together

Debra Sennefelder

By Debra Sennefelder
One question authors always get is where we get ideas from. Another top ten question is how do they plot their books? Today I’m going to share a look behind the scenes of my process.

The idea for SLEUTHING IN STILETTOS started from a few disjointed thoughts.

  1. I wanted the mystery to revolve around another shop owner in Lucky Cove.
  2. I wanted Kelly to be dealing with the fallout of her cousin’s murder over the summer.
  3. I wanted the primary murder suspect to be someone close to Kelly.
  4. I wanted the story to take place in autumn and end right after Thanksgiving.
  5. I wanted something else, but I can’t share because it’s a spoiler.

With those ideas, I was off brainstorming the story. For this stage, I typically use a notebook and find comfy places in the house (or in warmer weather, out on the patio) to jot down all the things that could happen. It can take me up to three weeks to write a complete outline for a book.

After brainstorming ideas, I get out the index cards and start filling them out. Usually, each card will have one to two sentences.

I’ll spread out the cards and start arranging them into scenes. Sometimes a few cards will become one scene because the idea isn’t enough to carry a whole scene or move the story forward.

When I have the cards in order, I take them to my computer and create a document. This will be more of a bare-bones outline. Once it’s complete, I’ll let it sit for a few days while I work on something else. For example, I might have copy edits, or I have to prepare for a release, or some admin work needs to be done.

After letting the story percolate, I return to my outline with a notebook ready to jot down notes as I read through the document. I’m fleshing out the plot, noting what the murderer is doing as my sleuth follows the clues – actual and red herrings. As I work through the outline, I’ll add character descriptions, notes about the setting, snippets of dialogue, and links to research articles.

Once the outline is finished and it could be up to twenty-five single-spaced pages, I begin writing. I take one scene at a time and keep writing until the first draft is complete. There’s no editing during this part of the process. My word count varies depending on what other work I must do, but I aim to write six days a week.

While writing the first draft of SLEUTHING IN STILETTOS, I found that a few ideas I had early on didn’t work. It can be scary, but I had confidence that new ideas would pop up. And they did. And they were so much better than what I’d initially planned.

There you have it, my process. Of course, every author’s process of plotting a story is different. What’s important is that we write the story.

If you’re an author, what’s your process of plotting? If you’re not an author, do you have any author questions you’d like to ask?

About Sleuthing in Stilettos:

Kelly Quinn, owner of a high-end consignment shop, is a booster for her Long Island town’s small businesses—but now a store owner’s murder has brought big trouble . . .

Locals in Lucky Cove seem to harbor hostility toward Miranda Farrell, proprietor of a new shoe store. Nevertheless, Kelly invites her along to a Chamber of Commerce meeting. But soon afterward, Miranda’s body is found in her shop, with Kelly’s uncle—who’s had multiple public arguments with her—standing nearby. Could her uncle really have committed murder over a business dispute? Or is Miranda’s death related to her late husband’s long-ago embezzlement case?

Kelly feels compelled to investigate, despite her detective boyfriend’s objections—not to mention her commitment to promoting Small Business Saturday. But her effort to pump up sales may fall flat. After her presentation to the committee is sabotaged, the Chamber gives her the boot—and tongues start wagging. Now she has to do some fancy footwork to find the killer . . .

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Debra Sennefelder is the acclaimed author of the Food Blogger Mysteries and the Resale Boutique Mystery Series. An avid reader who reads across a range of genres, mystery fiction is her obsession. Her interest in people and relationships is channeled into her novels against a backdrop of crime and mystery.

Her first novel, THE UNINVITED CORPSE (A Food Blogger mystery) was published in 2018. When she’s not reading, she enjoys cooking and baking and as a former food blogger, she is constantly taking photographs of her food. Yeah, she’s that person.

Born and raised in New York City, where she majored in her hobby of fashion buying, she now lives and writes in Connecticut with her family. She worked in retail and publishing before becoming a full-time author. Her writing companion is her adorable and slightly spoiled Shih-Tzu, Connie.

11 thoughts on “How the Story Came Together”

  1. I’ve enjoyed reading and reviewing your enticing food blog mysterys. I I suggest any cozey reading to do so you won’t be disappointed. The characters and mysterys are delicious 😋. Kat

    1. Debra Sennefelder

      Thank you, Kat! I love writing the Food Blogger series. Thanks so much stopping by. Have a great week. Happy Holidays!

  2. Loved reading about your process, Debra. And your books sound like fun reads!

    My process is very different. I’m basically a panster. Initially I have an idea of who the victim will be, who the killer will be (although that sometimes changes), and what their motives are (also subject to change). Then I brainstorm a list of about 20 possible plot points, and I sit down and start writing. The plot points list is my safety net in case I get stuck in the murky middle.

    Just goes to show there are multiple ways to do this mysterious thing called writing fiction. 🙂

    1. Debra Sennefelder

      Hi Kassandra, Yes, our processes are very different. 🙂 Thank you for sharing. And thank you for dropping by. Happy Holidays! Debra

  3. Your readers have been blessed to read your books. Loving what you do shines through your characters and plot lines. Thank you.

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